There are now four new videos of MY IRIS performing at Emulsion V (back in January) up on the website! Very excited to share these with you all 🙂 Take a look here. Massive thanks to Trapeze film (camera work), Alex Fiennes (sound) and Chris Kelly (video editing).
Freddie Gavita is a fabulous trumpeter and we go back quite a few years now… he appeared on my first record Tangent and at Emulsion III & IV. He’s just about to bring out his debut record Transient so I thought I’d get him to answer a few questions for my blog…
So Freddie, what are you up to today?
Hey Trish! I’m travelling back from France today, having a lovely time on the Eurostar! I’ve just made my debut with Kyle Eastwood’s band, depping for the dapper Quentin Collins.
Any interesting youtube finds?
The signal is a bit poor here, and I haven’t really had time to get on YouTube. I always download the Spotify ‘discover weekly’ playlist to inspire my record collection, and I can safely say I’ll be purchasing the Brad Mehldau / Chris Thile duo album.
Yes, that album is brilliant… My husband was lucky enough to hear them live in Ireland a few years back so he’s been on the look out for that album for a while…
For the uninitiated, can you give us a quick run down of the Freddie Gavita Story so far?
It began in the Norfolk and Norwich hospital in 1985. Teenage years were spent playing the trumpet and lamenting the fall of my beloved Norwich City football club. Not much has changed! I recently got married to the very beautiful and wonderful Emeline (a Swiss national) so my appreciation for quality cheese and promptness has increased dramatically.
It’s been an exciting year for you… Recording, crowdfunding, new album out soon… what’s the date of the launch?
The album launch is on April 19th upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s, and will be available to purchase on April 28th. If you can’t wait a week, come to the launch where it’ll be on sale in advance! I’m quite pleased with it if I may say so myself, Curtis Schwartz really captured the sound of the band perfectly and Carl Hyde’s photography and artwork is sublime.
Who’s on your record?
Tom Cawley, Calum Gourlay and James Maddren. Doesn’t get much better than that!
And how do you know these fine people? How long have you been playing together?
Well, I studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Calum and James (and YOU TRISH!), even living with them for two years. I don’t think they’d be up for it now. And Tom was our aural and transcription teacher, and was such a tremendous influence that we renamed Wednesday as Tom Cawley Day in his honour. The band has been together for 10 years (since my final recital) so we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary with a debut album!
Does the album feature your own music? Tell us a bit about your choice of repertoire…
Yes I wrote all the music (it’s cheaper than paying to play other people’s compositions). We recorded thirteen tracks and I had to whittle it down to ten, so there’ll be some extras to put on the vinyl reissue double album. I’d like to think it’s quite melodic music, I like to write in a way that gives us something to get our teeth into, create a framework for openness without alienating an audience. Basically the tunes are simple but the chords are hard.
What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
Blossom Dearie and Shirley Horn. And always Bird, Trane and Miles…
Any particular albums?
Yeah! The Best of Miles Davis… only joking… Shirley Horn plus Horn, Bags and Trane (Coltrane and Milt Jackson) Live Evil (Miles Davis) and My Gentlemen Friend by Blossom Dearie (with Ed Thigpen, Ray Brown, and Kenny Burrell!)
Oooo at least 2 of those are on very recent listening lists of mine too…
When you’re not playing the trumpet, any hobbies?
Not really, it takes up most of my time to be honest! I’m trying to read more, I’ve always been interested in how the brain works, how we make choices or react in certain situations. Mainly pop science though!
I play FIFA on the XBOX to wind down, it’s a guilty pleasure, but it’s the only way Norwich will ever win the Champions League….
I also drink far too much coffee.
Me too…! What’s your favourite fairground ride?
I’m partial to the dodgers, but I’m getting old now, so maybe the tea cups? Rollercoasters are fun after the initial shock, but I get dizzy for days afterwards…
Strawberry jam or marmite?
Marmite in the morning, jam in the afternoon!
Do you believe in Unicorns?
I believe in miracles. And a unicorn would definitely be a miracle, so yes.
This year it has been a pleasure to work with composer-vocalist-harper Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian. I commissioned her, with support from the PRSF, to write a piece for My Iris & the Emulsion Sinfonietta, to which I wrote a response piece. Both works – Cevanne’s Muted Lines & my Tap Dance (for Baby Dodds) – both appear on my latest album and received their large-scale premieres at Emulsion V in January, broadcast by BBC Radio 3’s Hear & Now and available to listen to on iplayer until early April.
The whole process has been extremely rewarding and so I have invited Cevanne to do an interview for my blog…
So Cevanne, what are you working on at the moment?
My lunch, and also I’m writing an arrangement for LSO strings to play with the St Luke’s Gamelan (June 22nd). I’m slowly completing two albums – one with inventor Crewdson, and another with Calum Gourlay and Chris Montague.
Both of which I look forward to hearing in due course! You’ve just finished your residency with the LSO… I think you are the first composer to hold this post? And you were working mainly in a very unique place?
Yes, the LSO patron Susie Thomson established this residency in the house of her late partner, Khadambi Asalache. The house, 575 Wandsworth Road, is filled with his intricate wood carvings and paintings, and is now looked after by the National Trust as a work of art. Susie wanted me to create music for the LSO players to fill it with new life and ideas in response to Khadambi’s work.
Why, indeed. I often ask this question while dragging it around heavily populated areas. The harp, in general, is one of the earliest instruments invented. I love its simple structure – it feels essential, like how folk music, in the broadest sense, is essential to society. Hopefully, that doesn’t sound too pretentious. [not at all!] The celtic harp, in particular, has a beautiful, rich, ringing resonance (especially compared to classical harp, which has a shorter decay). However, it’s not my first instrument, and you have to work within the constraints of the levers which dictate modes. So I like writing for ensembles which can continue the tone of the harp, and extend its range.
Hmmm, definitely something for me to investigate and learn about… What were the earliest influences on your music-making? Any heros?
As a student, I was inspired by the music of Monteverdi and his team, particularly the blend of improvisation and strong lines which entwined soloists with large ensembles; and the practice of positioning of players to achieve spatial acoustics in breathtaking architecture (ahead of the trend for ‘site-specific’ performance today). I always return to Purcell for his mastery of voice and narrative…
A lot of 20th-21st Century American composers had a lasting effect on me too, especially those who embraced humour, rhythm, line and experiments…
So, it follows that my hero is Laurie Anderson. Her work can be simultaneously direct and abstract. She is fearless to walk among many forms of art and science in the face of potential snobbery, finding it easiest to describe herself as a ‘multi-media artist’. She’s an impressive electronic innovator, and engineer. When I sat in on one of her sound-checks with the Kronos Quartet, it was the calmest I’ve ever witnessed – she ran it all with such clarity, assurance and kindness.
This all inspires me to express powerful ideas in the simplest way possible. I think balancing subtlety with clarity is a greater challenge than layering complexity. In a funny way, some pieces which seem to be saying a lot, very loud and fast, and throwing ‘big words’ around, are actually saying very little of substance.
I’d say to audiences, if you don’t understand something, it doesn’t mean it’s clever. If it moves you, it moves you.
…I could rant about this more in terms of genre, and even gender, but that’s another post, I think!
Yes, quite!! And wow, a lot of music for me to check out there… You mentioned your album with Chris and Calum earlier… I believe this is an eye-music project? Can you tell us a bit about that? I think you sing in this project?
Eye-music is a general term for a branch of my work which is informed by visual art. Sometimes I create tactile scores where the music is structured by a visual form – my most recent one was ‘Inkwells’ for the LSO residency, where I’d cut fretwork holes into the manuscript paper to reveal layers of notes for the performer to improvise.
This specific project with Calum and Chris is called TRACES, for now, because we’ve been using tracing paper to derive notes from the work of visual artist Maya Ramsay. Her collection WALL OF SOUND began with my residency at ‘Handel & Hendrix in London’, where she made graphite rubbings of the wood chip wallpaper of Jimi’s flat onto manuscript paper. We’ve made cells of notes, and each of us has composed pieces from the same material, with very different results.
It’s a refreshing collaboration, because we’re all playing an equally creative role, and we feel liberated by working within restrictions, and without our usual patterns.
I sing, because that’s my first ‘instrument’ after composing, and for live performances I add live electronics with the laptop.
Calum has been playing electric bass, in addition to his usual acoustic – combined with harp and electric guitar it’s a lovely response to Jimi Hendrix ‘at home’.
Thanks to the PRSF funding our initial collaboration, we’ve now got material for an album…
CEVANNE’S LATEST EYE-MUSIC, INKWELLS (SOPRANO VOICE AND REEL-TO-REEL TAPE)
You regularly explore aspects of your Armenian heritage in your music and your commission for my band, ‘Muted Lines’, raises the issue of loss and silence, could you talk a little more about that, and why you chose this topic for the commission?
When you called me about the commission, you told me about how a trip to Canada had made you readdress the history of Jazz, with America’s roots in immigration and slavery. I suggested we could write ‘sister pieces’ on this theme, because while I can’t claim experience of American history, I do have some thoughts about the process of displacement following genocide, because of my Armenian heritage.
‘Muted Lines’ uses silence to represent how a displaced society gradually loses aspects of its history, language, art, cuisine, as generations progress. Sometimes this loss is enforced by new regimes, other times it is too painful to remember. However, I think that though this silence brings loss, it also provides space for new ideas, and new collaborations.
I represent this process by basing the piece on an Armenian poem by Nahapet Kuchak. The couplet, “Sing, although the exile’s heart fills with such unsingable songs” loses words to silence as the piece progresses, until an essential message remains with only the first and last: “Sing songs”. The silence is filled with music, including improvisation, which I find uplifting.
It is not productive to dwell on past injustices when it restricts new creative collaboration; when it constructs prohibitive borders, segregation, and negative concepts of ‘ownership’. However, it is useful to reflect on the past in order to know how to help those currently experiencing a mass displacement, and fleeing atrocities. The reductive process in Muted Lines addresses their potential future.
[you can also read the liner notes Cevanne & I prepared for the album in this recent post]
Do you have any favourite spaces for writing music?
The kitchen, because there is food in there, and people to distract me. [you also have an incredible view! my kitchen pales by comparison…] Also, Khadambi’s house is a wonderful place to focus or dream. It’s so full of detail that with each visit I spot a new scene to spark my imagination. But mainly, his confidence inspires me. His house is a work of art which is not designed for an audience, but for himself. He has not tailored or censored accordingly. He is free to interpret cultures on his own terms, without fear of appropriation. His fluent style embraces the similarities of lines from separate continents without reducing them.
What have you got coming up for this year? When can we hear your music next?
I’ve just got back from a short tour of galleries in Switzerland performing music inspired by the work of visual/performance art trio JocJonJosch. I’ll be recording it soon with field recordings of their work…
You can hear my music live at two LSO Discovery concerts – this month at LSO St Luke’s the Community Choir will perform my piece ’The Fence-Sitter’ with brass quartet, based on a poem by Khadambi Asalache (Monday 27th March); and on June 22nd, the LSO Gamelan will perform my arrangement with LSO Strings at the Barbican.
TRACES, with Calum and Chris, is planning gigs later in the year once we’ve finished recording…
Thank you Cevanne, it’s been a joy to hear your thoughts on music and beyond.
Very exciting goings-on tonight… at 10pm you can hear nearly the full set from the Emulsion Sinfonietta at Emulsion V (mac birmingham, January 27th 2017) on the Hear & Now programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08hmqbv
So, so, happy and proud to have this music being presented on this platform, as usual the BBC R3 team have done a fabulous job. On the programme you can hear interviews with some of the composers, and myself and Sara Mohr-Pietsch having a chat about all things Emulsion. Massive thank you to everyone who helped me make this dream a reality, in particular Tom Harrison, Fiona Talkington, my own band (Ross, Chris & James), Joe Cutler & Felix Carey.
Set list Hans Koller Happy Mountain premiere Chris Montague Beamish Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian Muted Lines premiere Trish Clowes Tap Dance (for Baby Dodds) premiere Percy Pursglove He, whose dreams will never unfold (for DP) premiere Bobbie Jane Gardner Tapeworm Joe Cutler Karembeu’s Guide to the Complete Defensive Midfielder Iain Ballamy Chantries
(photos Michelle Martin/Birmingham Review)
Line-Up (changes throughout)
Trish Clowes – saxes (& voice on ‘Muted Lines’); Percy Pursglove – trumpet; Chris Montague – guitar; James Maddren – drums; Calum Gourlay – bass; Ross Stanley – piano & Hammond organ; Melinda Maxwell – oboe & cor anglais; Max Welford – clarinets; Rachel Lander – cello; Anna Olsson – violin; Iain Ballamy – sax; Joe Cutler – keyboard (on Karembeu); Hans Koller – euphonium & piano; Joe Wright – sax
Anna Olsson’s “The Woodcarver”, which was premiered in the same set at Emulsion V, was broadcast last night. It’s performed by Anna with Rachel Lander, Ross Stanley & James Maddren. You can hear it at 2hours26mins with her own intro too: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08h0l2k
Special thanks go to Fiona Talkington who hosted the festival, and Alex Fiennes who provided the sound in the theatre space at the mac birmingham on the night.
Last year I commissioned Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian to write for My Iris (my band) and the Emulsion Sinfonietta. The new work ‘Muted Lines’ appears on my latest album ‘My Iris’, was toured during January and received its full-scale premiere at Emulsion V on January 27th 2017.
When we were fundraising for this project I recorded an interview with Cevanne:
For some time now I have been meaning to put up my latest album’s liner notes that relate to ‘Muted Lines’ and my response/sister piece ‘Tap Dance (for Baby Dodds)’ and so here they are:
Muted Lines – Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian
Words in opening of Muted Lines taken from a poem by Nahapet Kuchak (d. 1592)
“Sing, although the exile’s heart fills with such unsingable songs”
Earlier this year I commissioned Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian to write a piece for My Iris (supported by the PRS for Music Foundation), for which I would write a response piece. The new works share a theme of ‘forced migration’.
The theme has personal resonance for Cevanne because 100 years ago, her family were forced from their ancestral homes in eastern Turkey during the genocide which murdered 1.5 million Armenians.
When trying to express this with sound, all she could think of was silence. The silence of generations unable to speak of the death marches, the slavery, and beheadings, because they were silenced by political pressure, or by the sheer horror.
This silence grows louder as it is passed down family lines, leaving a void in cultures, in language, in relationships.
Cevanne decided to explore this with a reductive exercise: how does the meaning of a sentence change, when, bit by bit, its words are forgotten?
She experimented with a sentence by the 16th century Armenian poet Nahapet Kuchak:
Sing, although the exile’s heart fills with such unsingable songs.
Cevanne reduced this to:
Sing! The exile’s heart fills with unsingable songs. Sing the exile’s heart with unsingable songs. Sing the exile’s unsingable songs. Sing the exile’s songs. Sing unsingable songs. Sing songs.
She found that, while much was lost, the feeling remained, and by setting this line to music, the silence could be filled with new meaning.
In fact, this is how cultures survive and evolve.
In ‘Muted Lines’, the melody repeats, because history repeats. The 16th century text shows how the experience is universal, across time and geography.
‘Muted Lines’ is dedicated to all exiles, and to their descendants, 100 years from now.
Tap Dance (for Baby Dodds) – Trish Clowes
My response piece takes a different approach to the theme, using music to try to express an inexpressible emotion I feel towards jazz, a music so dear to my heart. I have always felt a tear, which grows with my own awareness, between the love I feel for jazz and the knowledge of the brutal and devastating past that ultimately led to the existence of jazz. I am of course referring to the Atlantic Slave Trade which forcibly enslaved, transported and killed many millions of African people. And its despicable legacy, unfortunately, lives on.*
Whilst taking time to reflect on this, I also want to celebrate the birth of the drum set and the central role that the drum set played (and plays) in the evolution of music of the African diaspora. I want to take a moment to thank the incredible innovators who established what we now know as jazz and for the freedom and creativity I currently enjoy through experiencing jazz as a listener and performer.
Warren ‘Baby’ Dodds was one of the pioneers of early jazz drumming and this track is inspired by his playing. When I was first discussing ideas for this project with Cevanne I was in the middle of transcribing a Baby Dodds drum solo – a tap dance. After my first listen I immediately wanted to jam along with the recording, picking out fragments of his rhythms and a few of the implied pitches from the cow bells etc – all of a sudden I had the beginnings of a piece.
I want to take the opportunity to thank Vijay Iyer, Billy Hart, Tyshawn Sorey, Imani Uzuri and Josh Roseman for their insight, intellect, musicianship and expertise which has greatly inspired me over the last year since spending time with them (as a student) at the Banff Centre in Canada. In fact, Imani was the one who encouraged me to make use of my own voice (hence its appearance in ‘Muted Lines’) – so a big thank you to her for that.
* I realise this subject is far too big for liner notes, but I will say that researching this subject in more detail this year has led me to a fantastic organisation called the ‘Equal Justice Initiative’.
You may remember my ‘Under Your Wing’ project with Mike from 2014 (which I hope we will revisit very soon…) and the interview I did with him when he was raising funds for his ‘Ropes’ project: http://trishclowes.com/mike-walker/
They have a great energy, there’s lots of news and other jazz trivia on each episode. My interview is dated 17/2/17, but there are other great interviews up there too, including one with Stan Sulzmann.